I've spent the better part of today reading queries and subs. Probably have cleared several hundred out of the queue in one huge go-round. Out of all of those, I requested one full. One! This is unusual. Our hit rate is typically much higher than that. The huge majority of those rejections were for stories that didn't fit our guidelines or were poorly written. Run the spellchecker, folks. Details matter.
At least six of those subs -- and maybe many more, but you sort of start blocking them out after a while -- were for a story type that I've come to think of as The Mantasy.
Before I get into The Mantasy, let me say that our readership, near as we can reckon, is about 85-90% female. This is more or less in keeping with the industry averages for romance. Most romances are read by women. I've never done a breakdown on our submissions to see whether the same proportions hold true in our submissions, though, because we don't really care whether our authors are innies or outies. We only care that the stories be palatable to our readership.
I do know, however, that I've never seen a submission of The Mantasy from a female author. And male authors sub plenty of other kinds of works, so they're certainly capable of writing something other than The Mantasy. But if we get The Mantasy on submission, even if submitted under a female pen name, it's a guarantee that the author's legal name is something like Robert or Matthew or Karl.
Here's how it goes.
The main male character (usually married to a shadowy, ill-drawn wife) gets an opportunity to fulfill a sexual fantasy with another woman or with several other women. These fantasies are never single events, but complex fantasies requiring many encounters to fulfill. At first, everything is going so well that our hero chooses to leave his wife (or, if unmarried, to throw away his job, house, etc.) to pursue the fantasy full-time. And things continue to go well for a while until -- Duhn-duhn-DUHN!!! Damn those fantasy females! They start bickering or making demands or refusing to iron creases into his underwear like any good slave should cheerfully do.
So he leaves (usually in some shockingly violent manner meant to teach the fantasy female(s) once and for all how They Have Ruined Everything). And the moral of the story is always the same. "Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it. And when it goes badly, it won't be your fault."
Let me give you an example. None of these details come directly from anything we've rejected in recent memory, though there may be some fleeting resemblances. Any such resemblances are due to my own inability to perfectly recall all of the Mantasies I've had to read. In other words, I'm trying to avoid duplicating an actual sub, but we get an awful lot of these. Some resemblance in some detail might be inevitable.
Our hero -- we'll call him Joe -- decides he's had enough of his married-with-kids lifestyle. Joe is a 40-something professional man with money to burn, but he's been feeling rather shackled by his life recently. So he takes out a classified ad for harem girls. "Wanted: Hot, sexually adventurous chicks, 18-22, to join my harem." Then Joe secretly buys a mansion and waits.
Naturally, hundreds of 18-to-22-year-old supermodels flock to Joe's mansion for bikini and oral sex tryouts. Because what young beautiful woman could pass up the opportunity to share a middle-aged married man with several of her peers? ::eyeroll::
Sorry. Getting off track here.
After a most exciting competition period, Joe installs the selected supermodels into the mansion so that they can become his harem. And they adore him and have many orgies. He gets to explore his secret fantasies which we won't detail here. (You're welcome.)
Things are going pretty well for Joe. His wife suspects nothing. He gets a windfall bonus at work. His male pattern baldness is a thing of the past. He's inspired by this to divorce his wife, who neither objects nor seeks alimony or child support, and he moves into the mansion.
But then funny things start happening. Suzette gives him a shorter-than-usual foot massage. Amber chooses not to kneel in readiness next to his armchair while he reads the paper. Natalia doesn't have his bacon and eggs waiting for him in the morning even though it's her turn to cook for him. And when he asks Candy to lick his lollipop, she claims to have a headache.
(Let me interrupt a moment to point out that about half of these Mantasy submissions are in deadpan earnest, and the other half have a strong humorous tone. You might even call them self-deprecating. I point this out because I know my tone is rather, shall we say, ironic. But a good number of the Mantasies share this tone. And the ones that don't? Ought to.)
It comes to pass that the girls have formed many minor jealousies and rivalries, which Joe only slowly becomes aware of. Isadora hates Becky because Becky's butt is smaller. And Carmen got upset when he seemed to be paying more attenting to Katarina during a threesome. Tara thinks she should get Joe to herself on Tuesdays because he once joked about it being "Tara Tuesday." And so on.
Joe tries to reason with the girls, but they are intractable. Eventually, he gets so disgusted with them that he burns the mansion to the ground and moves to Bolivia under an assumed name. When his college buddy, now an FBI agent, catches up with Joe and hears the whole story, the Lawman feels so in sympathy with Joe that he agrees to shred Joe's file.
You want to know the most common water-cooler comment the editors make about subs like this?
"How is this a romance?"
Well, of course, it's not a romance. Romance is about the formation of a pair-bond. In erotic romance, the sex usually precedes the emotional commitment, rather than the other way around. But there's still a fairy tale ending -- the old, "And they lived happily ever after."
Not, "And they all perished in a fire, except for Joe, who avoided prosecution."
But wait! We take erotica submissions. Says so right in the guidelines. Of course, it also says things like "no marital infidelity" and "must have a satisfying, non-depressing ending" and "Red Sage is known for sensual or erotic romance for women." So that doesn't really get our Mantasy author off the hook.
What's the point of all this? When we talk about knowing your market and checking the guidelines, this is what we're hoping to avoid. I suspect that authors of Mantasies never read beyond the word "erotica" in the submissions guidelines, never get to the part where we explain what kind of heroes our readers like, and never therefore come to understand that our mostly female readership won't care for the story of Joe and his dead 19-year-old supermodels.
There may be a place for such a story. Some of them are even remarkably well-written. They're just not right for us.
who's had her fill of queries for a while